Cafe Society

Twelve Late-Night Spots That Make Industry Folks Very Happy

Happy hour takes the edge off, helping us unwind after a long day. But for people in the restaurant biz, happy hour isn't so happy: It marks the beginning of a long shift to come. That's why Cart-Driver, which I review this week, stays open late, with food and drink specials that start at 10 p.m. when 9-to-5ers are on the couch watching Jimmy Fallon.

On Café Society, we often write about bars and restaurants with great happy hours, but what are the spots that heat up the later it gets? Here's what a few industry folks had to say. See also: Cart-Driver Looks Like a Winner in the Fast-Casual Pizza Race

"When we want to get out of the scene, we head up to one of the dive bars up the street," says Iain Chisholm, chef-owner of Amerigo Delicatus, who favors Meadowlark Bar (2701 Larimer Street), the Matchbox (2625 Larimer Street) and even Jake's Food & Spirits (3800 Walnut Street).

Just as often, however, he moseys over to DADA Art Bar (2470 Broadway), the eclectic watering hole-cum-art gallery that he opened behind Amerigo. "A lot of artists who show their work hang out there," Chisholm says of DADA. "I'd say more regulars come out after eleven o'clock."

Chanelle Kawamura also happens to work at a place that draws a strong late-night crowd: Highland Tap and Burger. "Most often I'll drink at the Tap," says Kawamura, a server who also co-runs the beer program. On days off, she ventures slightly farther afield, to Williams & Graham (3160 Tejon Street) or Zio Romolo's Alley Bar (2400 West 32nd Avenue), which she likes because "they've got live music that goes pretty late."

On the other side of town, Cliff Blauvelt, sous chef at Steuben's, laughs when I ask about favorite places to grab a drink after work. "You caught me two years too late," he says. "I've definitely mellowed out a lot. I'm in bed by midnight." When he's not, he might be found putting back a beer and a shot at Ste. Ellie (1553 Platte Street), William's Tavern (423 East 17th Avenue) or Squire Lounge (1800 East Colfax Avenue).

If he's going with the crew, though, Blauvelt will likely head to Horseshoe Lounge (414 East 20th Avenue). "The front of the house and back of the house go there regularly," he says. "A group, at least ten of us, will head over together." Now, that's a happy hour.

What are your favorite late-night spots? Post them in the comments section below.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz